You may have heard that Epic Games – yeah, the Fortnite company – has launched its own storefront and is looking to compete directly against Valve. Good news, right?
Well, it depends who you ask.
People have been collecting games on Steam for what feels like an eternity, so to them, it feels like home. That’s where most my PC games are stored, by the way, so I understand the sentiment. To have all of your games collected under a single launcher means there’s no fuss, so people who have more games than they could ever play in a single lifetime – courtesy of those lovely Steam sales, no doubt – will want to see that platform thrive for decades to come.
But anyone who’s being honest with themselves will admit that Steam isn’t what it used to be.
Steam was once heralded for being as consumer friendly as a company could get. Valve was a development studio that knew how to sell games to gamers and they’ve built an empire around that. Steam sales used to feature prices so low that people would practically empty their bank accounts. Taking advantage of those insanely good prices was well worth it, even if it meant living off dehydrated noodles for the next three months.
But along the way, things have changed.
Every time there’s a Steam sale these days, all I see is a swath of people complaining about the selection of titles and the not-so-great pricing (personally, I think sales prices are fine, but I know they don’t hold a candle to the Steam sales of yore). So naturally, people have wished some competition would come along and force Valve to react accordingly, which is understandable because nobody loves a monopoly.
Well, Epic Games seems to be the first real contender… and now people are revolting?
To be fair, there’s more to this story than ‘some company is finally trying to give Valve a run for their money.’ Epic Games understood that the only way they’d make a splash in an era dominated by Steam is if they spent a lot of money upfront. As a result, they’ve opened their platform by offering a variety of free games – Subnautica, Super Meat Boy, and Axiom Verge kicked things off admirably – giving developers a larger cut of sales revenue, and by spending money on exclusive games.
That latter point is where things begin to get a little crazy.
Metro Exodus is one of the hottest anticipated titles in Q1 of 2019, but less than a month prior to its release, it was announced that it would be an Epic Games Store exclusive – only on PC, as the console launch will go as planned – for one year. Steam pre-orders will still be honored – meaning it will be available for download on that platform for those that bought the game ahead of time – but anyone who missed out will need to get it on the Epic Games Store. Because of the devs larger slice in the sales pie, the game will only cost $50 as opposed to the usual $60.
The gaming community is largely split on the matter.
The primary complaint I’ve seen is that it isn’t fair for certain games to be kept off Steam.
Personally, I’m a strong supporter of businesses doing what they want, because consumers are ultimately going to decide if their tactics were viable or not.
But why are gamers pretending like they’ve never had a supplemental launcher to install? If you want to play Overwatch, Diablo III, or the upcoming Warcraft III remaster/reimagining, you’ll need Blizzard’s launcher. If you like EA games, Origin is mandatory. GoG hosts a veritable wealth of classic games that aren’t available anywhere else, so that’s yet another platform to download (this one is optional though, as GoG also allows you to download game installation packs on their own, as their sales model supports DRM free gaming first and foremost). Anyone who feels like the Epic Games Store is the first affront on having every game they’ll ever own on Steam, they’re kidding themselves.
Granted, there is a difference; the above mentioned launchers are not competing against Steam directly, whereas Epic is. Is that distinction meaningful enough though? If the core complaint is ‘it’s not fair and I want my entire library in one place,’ then I’d say not. Things haven’t been that way for a very long time.
And besides, Steam allows you to link games from other platforms to your library anyway, so everything can still be on one tidy list. The other game’s launcher will still come into play, but as previously noted, that’s been a non-issue for most. I mean, how many people opted out of getting GTA V on PC just because Rockstar have their own launcher for it? Not many, because that game has been its own money press and continues to be to this day.
For some, it’s not a matter of convenience but more about not wanting to waste ‘valuable’ hard drive space and system resources. Why have five launchers when the gaming industry could just have everything on one, you know?
Fact of the matter is that most, if not all of the available platforms won’t impact game performance unless your hardware is extremely outdated. If running the Epic Store is going to be a burden, that’s not the fault of the program but the limitations of your PC.
Other gamers don’t want the Epic Games Store just on principle. One common concern is that the ‘snatch up exclusives’ mentality is bringing a console-wars-like battle to a community that has largely managed to avoid it.
But have they, really?
People have been arguing over Nvidia and AMD for years. Intel vs AMD. Windows vs Linux. And yet, PC gamers believe that they have isolated themselves from the woes of console gaming, even though they’ve been neck deep in similar problems all along. It’s selective (with a dash of elitist) memory at its finest.
The only real issue I see with the Epic Games Store is that the $10 discount only applies to the United States. Not only that, but reports indicate that the game actually costs more than it should in other regions. That’s a problem, and Epic really need to hammer that out if they don’t want their platform to become a niche market that ultimately fades into obscurity.
I have lingering questions about that $50 price tag anyway. Is that discount really the result of the larger cut that go to the devs, or is it just a PR move that Epic paid additional money for? Unless all platform exclusives adopt a similar pricing model moving forward, I don’t see this as a long-term win. This is just to get people on the platform, period… but Epic now have a mountain to climb in ensuring they grow and maintain a loyal consumer base.
That’ll be quite some burden to bear, I’m sure.
There’s also been some chatter about how Epic has had some data breaches in the past so people won’t trust them. But Valve has had data breaches too. And Microsoft. And Sony. If you’re going to hold one company’s feet to the fire for this, you’ll have to do it for all. It’s 2019, and data breaches are just a part of our day-to-day lives. Your information can be compromised at hotels, gas stations, restaurants, retail shops, and more.
Everything taken into account, I think people are just unhappy with seeing another platform pull games away from Steam. They feel it’s underhanded for Epic to pony up money for exclusivity, and that they should earn customers by being a better platform with better features.
That’s how things would be in an ideal world, but let’s be realistic: The Epic Games Store would have never had a chance if it didn’t make big moves out of the gate to grab people’s attention. I understand if you don’t care for console-like business models infiltrating the PC landscape – I can’t say I’m crazy about it either – but it was inevitable. Anyone with an internet connection can have a digital storefront these days, so major publishers were always going to offer their own… it’s just that Epic are the first ones to set their sights as high as Valve.
I’m not saying you should just give all your money to the Epic Store from here on out though. I still like Steam and that’s going to be my (PC) platform of choice for now and probably forever.
I’m just saying that on a surface level, what Epic are doing isn’t a big deal. You could argue that they should have used their money to create a new and fresh IP, but I’d counter that by saying, “What’s going to turn more heads? A game that people would potentially have no interest in, or a well-established IP?” The latter, clearly. And besides, they already have a good thing going with Fortnite.
So I don’t think the question should be if their tactics are fair or not – because I think they are, even if we don’t like them – but if those tactics will serve them well in the long run.
Through that lens, I’m not sure Epic knows what they’re doing. They’ve clearly been blinded by all the Fortnite money.
In my opinion, they should have stopped at, “Hey, Metro Exodus will be $10 cheaper on our store!” That would have drawn a number of people to their platform AND gain them a bit of good will. Instead, they opted to forcefully swing Metro fans to their side of the table. That’s… not very smart. This industry is loaded with companies that say, “We’re doing this because we can,” and people are fed up with that attitude. It’s why Electronic Arts are walking a tightrope, balancing the act of marrying monetization with consumer friendly business models (and thus far, have largely failed).
Pissing people off may work for financial gain in the here-and-now, but it’s not sustainable. Not forever.
These are the real issues that plague the Epic Games Store and Metro Exodus fiasco… not that ‘it isn’t fair’ stuff. It’s a shame that they’re souring so many people on their platform so early on, because we really do need a company that will be the anti-Valve. Again, I like Steam, but its curator hasn’t really tried to excite its user base for quite some time. Only time will tell, but here’s to hoping that Epic has learned a lesson from all this and will cultivate good will first and foremost.